Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 4 – Guilin: Call it what you want (the rocks)

On this day, we had rather wet weather, but I woke up early enough to eat breakfast first and take photos of the view of Li River from our bedroom (traffic was too noisy outside) – there was a balcony with deck chairs which we of course never got to use, and every morning, there would be old folks dancing by the river. I caught a procession of blue vans in a row as I was snapping the photos – might be some marketing gimmick for whichever company. When Rosabelle woke up a little after 9 am, she was a most obedient girl, drinking her yogurt drink and eating her cake as she sat on the chair whilst I packed for the day. I even had time to take a photo of the hotel signage at the reception when we were at the lobby, heh!
We then headed for a boat ride (yet another!) to see Elephant Trunk Hill. There was a man smoking in the cabin and I gestured to the guide in front that they should not be smoking – luckily they stopped as there is a rule in Guilin that in a public place, as long as there are more than 3 people and one objects, nobody should smoke. Aye, aye, I say!
As it was drizzling slightly when we went on deck, out came the caps and hoods.
As usual, the kids had their usual hawthorn/seaweed snacks…
And as usual as well, poor Simon did not dare defend himself against Rosabelle’s facial massages (afraid that Yiyi would scold him…)...
We saw beautiful scenery along the Taohua and Li Rivers.
Then finally reached the Elephant Trunk Hill – thus called because of the self-explanatory shape in the picture.

How could we miss taking photos in front of this landmark of Guilin…
After that, it was back to more snacking as we headed back…
As you can see, our girl was munching on things non-stop, so we headed for lunch first before our next destination.
We chose a nice restaurant near our hotel called 好吃堡 (Tasty Castle), which turned out to have very good food and service. They at first let us sit near the entrance but as it was raining, we requested the sofa seats inside, and they said there would be a minimum spending of RMB150 (no problem!) – in fact, their rooms only required minimum spending of RMB200, and that was what we booked for dinner that night, haha!

Rosabelle was eating well and enjoying her food, but Simon laid down to rest in-between, saying he had a tummy ache. We at first thought he was faking it and did not want to eat anymore, so paid scant attention to his complaint as he still looked fine (in fact, Rosabelle was the one who pooed right after lunch, sheesh!).

After filling up, we then went to Reed Flute Cave, one of Guilin’s most popular caves due to the wildly colourful pools and formations (and lighting!), and thus called because there were a lot of reed flute plants in front of the cave when they discovered it. It wasn’t as dark as I thought, with well-lit paths, and not at all frightening for a toddler – I even let her walk on her own, within sight of course, as she could just walk off the path into a stream!
The locals gave the different formations names like ‘The Snowman’, 'A big harvest’ etc etc, using their vivid imagination to ‘see’ what the rocks have formed. After some time, you get the idea and have to give them credit for being able to see things we don’t normally do (though the rocks do really have interesting formations).
We then came to a clearing with the most beautiful lake and reflection of the rock formations. Very, very nice…
And of course we camwhored…
And camwhored again…
We then came to a spot where we needed to pay another RMB5 per adult to enter – home to a few impressive turtles, one a 1,000-year-old, and another a 1,300-year-old, so we of course touched them for good luck.
We could give donations and get lucky charms, but when my mum said Simon was Catholic, and cannot receive such charms, the attendant was insistent, and even quite irritated, saying it’s just a blessing for the kid, and remarked ‘什么基督教嘛?!' – how rude! I wanted to tell her off and ask her to respect others’ religions, but bit my own tongue as I did not want to kick up a fuss.
After we came out, we lost the group we were with, and had an English-speaking guide for the remaining part of the journey in our small group, which was even better!

We then wrapped up our visit and headed to Seven Star Park, which was by this time covered in rain as it was pouring heavily.
Now, apparently, every group that goes in here needs to have a guide, and this woman started sticking to us as we first went to visit the temple, telling us there was a route to follow in praying to the deities, and we should not pray randomly, and even that there was a sequence in offering joss sticks.

After some time, she did get rather pushy and irritating, being rather inflexible and insisting we follow her and not wander around on our own. In the end, we basically told her to buzz off, and that we were going to walk around (and pray around) on our own without her help/guide. Even Boa, who is normally mild-mannered, was very angry and said, ‘Tell her she can go home!’. She kept saying, ‘可能你们听不懂', assuming only my brother understood Mandarin, as only he bothered to converse with her. When she found out I could speak Mandarin, it was because I was already irritated enough and started telling her in rather rude terms that when we don’t respond, it’s not because we don’t understand you, lady, but it’s because we don’t wish to follow you. We wanted to walk out into the yard and she claimed it’s out of bounds, so I asked an attendant next to us if we could walk there, and whether we could do it without a guide. Think she felt quite embarrassed when he gave us permission to go wherever we wanted, so we bade a very resounding farewell to her. Good riddance to bad rubbish!

Rosabelle was her excited self and ran all over, but Simon was looking rather unwell and complained of a tummy ache, so my mum applied some oil on his stomach.
Around the park was a zoo, that was supposedly small and a non-event, so we did not go, seeing it was raining as well, so we headed to the Seven Star Cave, and had to wait like for half an hour as they were waiting for more people to come so they could lead a group all at once. So we paid RMB2 for some drum sticks and hit the gongs and drums – there are supposedly about 98(?) different sizes/heights of drums and gongs and you only hit them once, but my brother, Simon, Rosabelle and I had a field day just drumming around as we waited, haha…
Brother carried Rosabelle to see some preserved historic calligraphy carvings as we waited, and finally we managed to get in, but after the Reed Flute Cave splendor earlier, this was really nothing much.
Though it claims to be第一洞天...
Like the other rock formations, these also had vivid names, and it wasn’t long before we started naming our own rocks, haha!
There was an appointed photographer who followed the group on the way, and included in the cost of the ticket was a complimentary 2-inch photo, so given the 5 of us, we could take 5 different shots. Of course, we needed to pay if we wanted an 8-inch print-out, but we made use of his services and took photos wherever we could, haha…

Simon then said he needed to poo and Mum rushed out with him – poor things, it was quite a long way out to the washroom and he actually pooed a little in his pants. Mum suspects it must have been the yogurt drink he shared with Rosabelle the night before after dinner – either that or too much hawthorn, who supposedly helps you to have a good appetite and 开胃.

We continued the journey and saw a Yao woman ‘performing’ her hair-tying skills as well in the cave.
Then came the nicest part of the cave, I think…
Who said you can’t get a decent shot with a home camera?
As we walked on out, my brother and I wondered how long poor Simon had to go before he reached the toilet, as it was really a distance away. In the mean time, I thought my girl had also pooed as I kept smelling a bad poo smell on/around her, but there was nothing, strange… we also saw another turtle, but a young one in comparison, a 100-year-old, and my brother commented it was crying, as it did have watery eyes… poor thing. They are reptiles that love the cold and dark conditions, so I can imagine how they must suffer in captive when put under such harsh spotlights for most of the day, and having to bear with so many people touching them.

When we reached outside, there was a table with our photos displayed, and we just took the 2-inch ones. The lady manning the booth wasn’t very pleased and said, ‘都给这么多钱了还不花这钱买照片?这些不是普通相机能拍出来的,你们自己拍的等于浪费表情!' So harsh, right? So I rubbed it in and said, ‘是啊,还浪费感情,还有什么- 不了情呢!' Haha…

So I carried Rosabelle and walked on, and it was still raining heavily and I had to carry an umbrella. The driver was waiting for us at the base of the steps and said it was quite a walk to the bus, so strangely enough, there was no sight of my family as we waited for at least 5 minutes. I got quite irritated – I was carrying Rosabelle in the rain, and carrying an umbrella, and they are sure taking their own sweet time. There was no way we could go on without them as they would lose sight of us. ‘快点! Hurry up!’ I shouted, and they finally appeared – Mum had changed her mind and was choosing from one of the photos to buy. Haiz!

We then went back to the hotel to unpack and wash up first before heading out for dinner again at the lunch place, Tasty Castle. As I was preparing to put on her shoes to head out, I smelt it – the poo was all over one of her shoes; she must have stepped on a pile earlier in the day, and that was why the smell was lingering all around her. Poo! I quickly took off her shoe and used the hotel toothbrush/toothpaste to scrub the sole clean. Yikes…

After that, we walked to the dinner place, and Rosabelle was all fine when we were ordering food and even had some salty spaghetti, but within minutes, this was what happened… hohoho! And so I let her take a half-hour nap as I ate my dinner in peace.
She woke up as we were leaving the restaurant, and we all headed back to the hotel when poor Simon had to run on first with my brother as he was having a queasy stomach again. Turned out he could not reach my brother’s suite in time and went in the lift, oh dear… if only they had quickly run to the hotel toilets at the lobby area. I fed Rosabelle some left-overs from dinner, and she in fact pooed again as well. What a terribly poo-ey day for everybody, huh!

That night, she seemed most energetic when I wanted to put her to bed (maybe her power nap was too late at 9pm), and she wasted time looking at the cartoons on her pyjamas, drinking water etc, so much that I had to snatch the cup from her and turn off the legs, making her cry and roll on the bed to sleep… An over-stimulated on my hands, that’s what I have!

Boa shared with us the next day about the weirdest dream he had - that of a Yao long-haired woman proned on the floor, and letting us all stroke her like a turtle. How strange! He was more amused than afraid though, haha!

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